As I was in the midst of writing my column on why I believed majority owner Robert Sarver would move quickly to hire James Jones as the Phoenix Suns’ new General Manager, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that indeed seems to be the plan.
Story soon on ESPN: Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is leaning toward the eventual hiring of interim general manager James Jones as the franchise’s full-time GM, league sources tell ESPN. Jones had been VP of Basketball Operations under former GM Ryan McDonough.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 9, 2018
Fifteen months ago, Ryan McDonough was signed to an extension that would run through June 2020 as Sarver also hired James Jones onto their basketball operations staff as Vice President of Basketball Operations.
Sarver created this entirely new position to convince Jones to come on board, fulfilling his destiny of coming back to the Valley after retiring. And since he didn’t backfill or name a President of Basketball Operations (to replace Lon Babby), it seemed that Jones and McDonough had a blurry reporting relationship under Sarver.
At that time, Sarver preached patience but joked he’s not really a patient man. Well, this week proves that statement as another shakeup in the Suns’ organization is en route.
The reason why I leaned heavily toward Jones being hired without an interview process was due to him being joined at the hip with McDonough throughout this past offseason. Sarver met with Igor Kokoskov before he was hired as their new head coach, then McDonough and Jones checked back in with Sarver to get his blessing on hiring him. Also, Jones was involved throughout the pre-draft process that landed Phoenix their big draft class led by Deandre Ayton at No. 1 and trading an unprotected 2021 first-round pick for the rights to Mikal Bridges.
Jones also has strong player relations ties. The one area where McDonough struggled was where Jones excelled. With huge questions to answer about this roster long term coupled with preserving max cap space for the summer of 2019, Sarver looks to have put more trust in Jones succeeding over the next year than McDonough.
Jones, who’s one of the most respected former players in the NBA and served as the NBPA’s Treasurer while still actively playing, comes in with potential and accolades but it’s now hoping he quickly grows into an above-average executive.
The new trend seems to be hiring former players into executive positions (see Elton Brand in Philadelphia after he was chosen over more experienced outside candidates), and Jones already has pressure from ownership to pull off a point guard trade within the next week.
Another area Wojnarowski noted in his story published to ESPN is Sarver’s involvement with day to day operations.
Sarver has earned a long reputation for aggressively involving himself in basketball decisions, but it’s become harder for coaches and front office staff to manage in the past two years after the Suns became Sarver’s primary business interest.
Suns coaches became accustomed to regular beratings and demands of strategy and lineup changes, league sources said. Rival executives could sometimes hear Sarver yelling in the background on negotiation calls with the Suns’ front office. Agents tell stories of private conversations occurring with Sarver without the front office’s knowledge.
Stay tuned to Bright Side of the Sun as we will continue to keep you updated on the general manager search as more news breaks.